CB18 vote to co-name Utica Avenue as ‘Guyana Avenue’ postponed over inclusivity concerns

utica avenue sign, proposed to be co-named "guyana avenue"
The revised proposal now encompasses the stretch of Utica Avenue that runs from the Eastern Parkway down to Foster Avenue.
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A motion to co-name a portion of Utica Avenue to “Guyana Avenue” will be voted on next month after members of Community Board 18 raised concerns Wednesday over the inclusivity of the initiative.

Under the plans, a three-mile stretch of Utica Avenue from Eastern Parkway to Avenue H would be co-named after the Caribbean state to celebrate the achievements of the Guyanese community in Brooklyn and the diaspora’s strong affinity for the borough.

The stretch of Utica Avenue in question falls under three community board districts.

Advocates from the Guyana Avenue Committee said they had so far secured approval from boards nine and 17, and appeared at Wednesday’s meeting of Community Board 18 asking that they sign off on the stretch of road in its district — from Avenue H to Foster Ave.

building with caribbean flags in little caribbean, near proposed guyana avenue co-naming
The roadway stretches through community boards 9 and 17, home to the “Little Caribbean” neighborhood, who approved the co-naming. File photo courtesy Historic Districts Council

At the suggestion of board member Amar Dyal, the body voted 16-to-15, to postpone the co-naming vote after concerns were raised by those present over the length of the stretch of road and whether the name was inclusive of the other Caribbean communities in the area.

“While I love the idea, I just think that that’s too long of a stretch. I’m Grenadian and Dominican. And we live along that same stretch. So it’s not only Guyana, and that’s not to downplay any Guyanese in the room, it’s just to be fair,” said board member Terri Cadet-Donald

Barbara Bieber, board secretary, suggested “encompassing everybody” by naming the stretch “Caribbean Way”. Committee members voted in favor of deferring the vote to to consider other suggestions and to allow for a proper discussion among the board.

The Guyana Avenue Committee were asked to attend next month’s board meeting “with an open mind”.

Unity in the community

However, advocates from the co-naming committee said they were not open to compromise on the name or length of the stretch of road, arguing that Guyana and its diaspora foster Caribbean unity for all the Caribbean nations, noting that the headquarters of The Caribbean Community — an intergovernmental organization geared at unifying the Caribbean — is in Guyana.

“This is also an initiative to celebrate our Afro-American brothers and sisters, and our other Caribbean brothers and sisters,” said one spokesperson from Guyana Avenue Committee. “We think if we can do this we can bring greater unity in our community. The Guyanese have been involved with educating young people and also making them good citizens. Let’s not forget that they’ve also established many businesses in central Brooklyn, particularity along Utica Avenue, thereby strengthening the tax base, providing jobs and stabilizing the community.”

Community members were also asked to consider approving the co-naming based on the achievement of the Guyuanese diaspora and their contributions to the borough such as Wesley McDonald Holder and Shirley Chisholm.

Holder, a Guyanese native who immigrated to the US in 1920, earned the moniker the Dean of Black politics for his advocacy work throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s. Among the many successful political campaigns spearheaded by Holder was one that resulted in Chisom – whose father was Guyanese – becoming the first black woman elected to Congress.

Chisholm was also the first Black woman to run for president, represented Central Brooklyn in the nation’s capital from 1969 to 1983, and burnished a reputation as a fierce advocate for her community and for civil rights.

The initiative from the Guyana Avenue Committee follows the co-naming of Queens’ Liberty Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard to “Little Guyana Avenue” in 2021.